Monday, February 18, 2013

The Emerald Ash Borer: a Major Threat

(Photo: USDA)

Emerald ash borers are beautiful but destructive, and they've been found in Virginia. Continue reading to learn more about how they got here and what you can do to protect your trees.

Yes, it's true. We've been invaded by aliens. Lots of them, in fact. No, not the green ones with three heads and flashing eyes, but small multicolored ones with six legs. they don't arrive from another galaxy in saucer shaped spaceships, just by regular transportation from another country. Usually on a shipment of produce, such as tropical fruit, in wooden packing materials. the most popular ports of entry for these six legged aliens are the Lost Angeles area and New York/Newark. These aliens are arriving and staying at the rate of two+ new species every year. 

Once here, they don’t have as many natural predators as they did back home, so they become an alien menace, seriously threatening local ecosystems and the economy.  For example, the emerald ash borer ( Agrilus Planipennis Fairmaire) is a small, beautiful, jewel toned beetle native to Asia and Russia.  It entered this country in 2002 and promptly became known as the “green menace” because it has girdled and killed tens of millions of ash trees, resulting in damages of up to $20 billion.  First identified in Michigan and Ontario, Canada, it has now spread to 15 states, including Maryland and Virginia, where it has now spread throughout the state.

In urban areas the pest is most commonly spread through firewood where it can remain for quite some time.  There is also some evidence that the emerald ash borer can be spread through nursery stock and possibly mulch.  Because the borer is particularly attracted to the wave length of the color purple, some municipalities have blanketed their areas with distinctive looking purple traps. 
How can you tell if your trees are infested?  Look for small D shaped holes in the bark of your trees.  These holes are where the adult beetles have exited.  If you notice an unusually high level of woodpecker activity in your area that may also be an indication that the beetles are present since the birds like to feast on emerald ash borer larvae.

What to do?  Call your local extension agent’s office to confirm the infestation and get information on potential treatment of the pests.

For more information, see:

The Virginia Department of Forestry also has information on the emerald ash borer:

To take a free, on-line course on the emerald ash borer, click here:

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